Jan 02

STOP Bashing Fellow Competitors!

P1010194Over the past few years I’ve seen an increasing number of FB posts from competitors that trouble me. Posts that are mean-spirited at best, and downright derogatory, spiteful, hateful, nasty, and well…just plain embarrassing to someone (me) who’s been in this industry for over 40 years. What am I talking about? The shaming and belittling of others who aren’t up to ‘their’ definition of what a competitive physique should look like onstage.

Oh, you know what I’m talking about. A brand new competitor posts a picture or video of him or herself. That individual is PROUD of working to his or her best potential to step onstage. But it’s obvious he or she doesn’t have ‘the look’ of a competitor. But here’s the rub. We don’t know their struggle. We don’t know where they started, what they had to overcome, what adversities they faced along the way, or anything about their lives, but somehow we feel compelled to start the sharing and ‘discussion’ (and that’s being nice) of their physique. Not in a nice, constructive critical way, but in a nasty belittling way, tearing them down to do what…be cool or make you feel better about yourself (I’m assuming… otherwise, why else would you feel so inclined to rip into someone you don’t know?)?

Now here’s where I have to admit that even I, years ago, when I had more muscle, was winning, and thought I was all that and a can of Pork-n-Beans (I subsequently found out I’m not and that no one really cares what I did), used to rip into competitors onstage at shows with my friends. We’d laugh and joke with each other about a person’s look, and wondering how a person could step onstage with said look, not knowing anything about that person. I’m here to say that I’m embarrassed by my past actions, and I deeply apologize for such words, laughter, and verbal insults at shows.

With that said, I have to ask, why do we feel the need to rip into others? To make ourselves feel better? I know I didn’t. In fact, in just about every instance I can remember belittling someone onstage, I never felt better, although I’m sure some do and will. My moral compass wouldn’t allow me to feel better. I was raised better than that. I knew better, yet I did it anyway. I remember in most instances wondering why I was even joining in the verbal assaults. Perhaps it was a sense of belonging – to fit in with the guys. Perhaps I thought it made me feel ‘cool’. I don’t know. I just know, and knew back then, that it was wrong. And when I got my first ‘heavy’ competitor, I stopped. More on that later.

Below is a video of a woman in a Figure contest. I don’t know her name. Don’t know what part of the country she’s from or what show she competed in. Don’t know anything about her. But it was shared to a friend’s page. Some of the comments I read troubled me, especially by those of some Competition Coaches and Personal Trainers. I said nothing until I was invited into the conversation and asked what my thoughts were. Following the video is my comment to what I said. I’ll summarize after that.

“I can argue both sides of this equally convincingly. Who is ANYONE to say whether another person has the right to step onstage? Just because she doesn’t fit YOUR ideal, doesn’t mean she has no right nor privilege to be up there. For those that think otherwise, I’d recommend you get off your high horse and remember a struggle in your life. I’ve trained dozens of women who had lost 50, 75, and 100 pounds. Two of them came down over 200 lbs. Was I going to deny them their right to be on a stage in which THEY WERE PROUD OF THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS? No. I never did that. But I DID advise them that because of their loose skin, not great genetics, and still carrying excess bodyfat, that they would probably be in the bottom half if it was a tough competition.

My job as a coach is to prep my people to achieve THEIR BEST POTENTIAL. Sometimes that means taking dead last every single time, but if they’re good with it, then so am I. C’mon, seriously, how many of us will actually get out of the NW and go to Nationals? From there, how many will actually get the ‘coveted’ pro card, which means for many, their career is in effect over? Do you not watch sports in which you see so many bench players who are ‘pros’ but NEVER get into the game? So it will be with many in this field who get their pro card. Career over. And at the National level, there will be those that go back year after year and never crack the top 10. And at the local/regional level, there will be those that compete show after show and never crack top 5. So stop bashing her.

Now, here’s something I WILL tell a competitor who has potential. “I’ll give you one, maybe two shows to get your act together. From there, it’s balls-to-the-wall to achieve not only your best look but your BEST POTENTIAL!” For many that still is local. For a few, it’s Nationals. But the goal is, once we’ve determined that you’ve got that “IT” factor, is to give it your all. Think like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, and so many other great athletes who have the right mindset to be not only a competitor but a CHAMPION COMPETITOR with a Championship mindset. It’s not all about great genetics. Remember, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

There’s two wins in this, and any other athletic endeavor. The first win is when you achieve YOUR best potential. That’s an intrinsic, performance-oriented win…something that happens within you that only you control. I believe this woman did that. So leave her alone. The second win is when you win the show. That’s called an external, outcome-oriented win. That win, in many instances, is out of our control.

I hope this clarifies things up a bit. I’m sure she knew she didn’t look great, but she was up there with the right attitude. She’s got good shape, good genetic structure…now let’s see what she does with it the next time she steps onstage…”

Baby - When you look cute but you're not contest-readyPersonally, I started understanding my own words were cruel when I picked up my first heavy client who wanted to do a show way back in 1995. I knew she wouldn’t look good. But as I said above, my job was to get my competitors into THEIR best condition, but be honest in my appraisal of their physique. If they were good with what to expect onstage, then we continued. The first, and just about every other ‘non-beautiful bodied individual’, worked just as hard as the talented, genetically gifted ones, some even harder. But they just didn’t have that “IT” factor to be competitive onstage. But I was nevertheless proud of them for what they accomplished. And I learned that, as Oprah said, everyone DOES have a story to tell.  Coming down 200+ lbs , never having worn a bathing suit much less a posing suit, exposing your damaged body to the world to see, AND having to smile during all of this is unnerving. I know competitors with great physiques who get stage fright. Imagine how a person who has carried excess weight much of his or her life, has loose, saggy, stretch-marked skin feels. Put yourself in their shoes. How would YOU feel if you heard all of the hurtful talk being spread about you, not just at a show, which I sadly did, but in this social media world where MILLIONS of people will see what’s been said about you? Not a good feeling huh? So please…stop.

Apparently some Competition Coaches in today’s age seem to think that the only good competitor is a 1st place competitor. They only want to train those individuals who they believe will win, thereby giving the coach fame and recognition.  Training overweight, out-of-shape, and non-genetically blessed individuals are beneath them. Well guess what? That’s the majority of the world, coaches! Statistically speaking, most competitors have a better chance of being struck by lightning that getting that coveted pro card. Trust me, I’ve seen great looking local competitors who hit the National scene, and looking at their pics, I could easily say, “What made this person think he or she was National Ready?” So coaches, get off your high horses and quit thinking that every competitor HAS to have that “IT” factor or the best look to be on your team or step onstage. Most don’t and most won’t no matter how hard they train. If you truly want to be a great coach, think like any high school, collegiate, and professional coach. You have players on the team. Some players are blessed with great genetics, talent, and work ethic. Those are the easy ones to work with. Then you’ve got the ‘also-rans’ – those individuals who make up the majority of the team. They understand that even though they’re ‘good’, they’re not GREAT, nor ever will be. But it’s the coach’s job to bring out their best potential to best help the team. Even though this is an individual sport once you hit that stage, you want to know that your coach is behind you 100%. Remember coaches, these individuals know they don’t look like Mr. Olympia or Ms. Physique. But YOUR job is to make them FEEL like Mr. Olympia or Ms. Physique. If they do the work that’s required of them, the same work that your genetically gifted competitors do, why would you not give them praise? And why would you rip into someone else onstage who has done said work?  They know that more likely than not the local level is as far as they’ll go. And they’re good with it. So again…stop it.

Rather than rip into someone, why not see if you can get in contact with the person and offer some insight into bettering their look? I get lots of calls from people soliciting my feedback. I’m brutally honest with them, but I give it. But only if they ask. I tell them up front that I may say something they don’t want to hear but NEED to hear. And then I proceed. I truly believe it’s better to be totally honest with a person’s potential than to continually say, “You look great, you’re doing awesome, or you’re going to kill it!” Now, I WILL say, “From where you started, you’re looking fantastic, but keep in mind you’re going to be stepping onstage with some of the best physiques in the NW. So be ready for that not-so-great placing” or something like that. Now the person’s head is on straight that it’s all about his or her journey, not about winning a trophy.

I think I’ve beat this horse enough. I tried to cover all scenarios that I’ve experienced over the years. What are some of your thoughts on this topic? And remember, no derogatory language please, and if you can’t comment in a professional, articulate, intelligent way, say nothing. 




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